Anthrax Anxiety

' White powder' fears understandable, but paranoia is the real threat

First junk mail, then hate mail.

Now bacteria mail.

In our age of anthrax-in-an-envelope, it is neither time to make light, nor to panic.

Postal paranoia does not become us. It is safe to open mail and, for that matter, safe to go shopping.

Still, the U.S. Postal Service's move to equip all mail handlers with gloves and masks is a reasonable response to the newest phase in what is becoming a multi-front war with terrorism.

Many of the "white powder" incidents in the past week or so are clearly misunderstandings fed by inflamed worries over the spread of terrorism -- or they are pranks. As a culture with a highly diverse sense of humor, it is important to remember that some people are going to find malicious mirth in these fast-changing and confusing times.

In Lake Oswego officials closed several streets for three hours in reaction to what was flour used to mark a running course. In Puget Sound, ferry service on a heavily-used commuter line after an alarm over what turned out to be women's make-up in a restroom.

Hood River County has not been immune to such alarms. The white powder found in the till at Pine Grove Grocery raised an understandable concern in the people who work there. But a fact-based, cooperative response by local health and law enforcement helps keep this in perspective. (For more, turn to page A1).

Two facts deserve stressing: the chance is highly remote of an act of terror, biological or other, reaching our community.

Anthrax, though deadly, is a non-communicable bacterial disease and it is hardly exotic -- farmers have for decades dealt with it in cattle.

It is ironic that the "mad cow" scare of the first half of 2001 would be followed in the second half by anthrax as world's most-feared illness.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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